Sunday 11 December 2011

Ich bin ein Bärliner

I met Marcel Gillen at the Dutch Cube Day and he spent a while talking me through all his past IPP exchange puzzles – I’d managed to acquire one in the past (his Belgian Chocolates from IPP 22 in Antwerp). He spent a fair chunk of that explaining the background behind his exchange puzzle from this year (Ich bin ein Bärliner) that referred back to JFK’s 1963 speech in Berlin – the speech was pilloried in the press at the time by explaining that the great man had effectively declared himself to be a jam doughnut rather than showing solidarity with the good citizens of Berlin. [It seems that serious scholars have decided that wasn’t in fact the case and he had been aligning himself with the people and not the pastries after all, but I guess the papers know a good story when they see it and why let the facts get in the way of that?!]

Anyhow, Marcel’s packing puzzle (remember, I’m rubbish at packing puzzles!) has a jam-filled doughnut-shaped tray, nine little red bears (from Berlin’s flag and to remind the English speakers that the Berliners pronounce their city-hood as “bear-liners” - see Marcel, I was listening!) and a little rectangle representing the jam (use your imagination!). The puzzle comes with two challenges: first, pack the nine bears into the tray, second, pack all nine bears plus the jam into the jam doughnut …

Let’s look at this one a bit closer – the bears’ shapes are pretty strange – and working out how they can intersect efficiently is hard enough – but trying to do that in the confines of an oval tray with constantly changing outside angles is a nightmare! Something that might work perfectly on one area of the arc will be awfully inefficient (or impossible!) a bit further around – yet somehow I managed to find a way of squashing the nine bears into the tray in my first few days of playing with it. To be honest, the shock of doing that caught me by surprise and I frantically scrabbled around trying to find the other bear that must have fallen into my lap – only to count the ones in the tray and admit to myself that I’d actually managed to solve the first challenge … however trying to free up just a tiny little bit of extra space for that little jam-thingy is something else entirely.

That particular mission kept me annoyed amused for several evenings in short bursts - until I managed to stumble across a set of combinations that came tantalisingly close - and then with a little bit of fine-tuning, actually worked!

Gotcha Gillen - but you had me going for quite a while there!
(Thanks, it was fun...)


  1. Don't tell me you actually solved that thing! I'm so envious! I must tip my hat to you. These bears...they are in serious danger of ending up in some one's stew pot!

  2. Thanks Rox! Yeah I managed to find a solution and sent a photo to Marcel, who said there was a better one that had the jam in the middle (mine was on the edge - and I suppose it makes sense to have the jam in the middle!) so I fiddled around a bit and sent him another solution with the jam in the middle ... then he sent me a picture of his solution which is far more elegant (and less chaotic than mine!) - so take heart - there are at least three solutions to the final problem! Hang in there and stay away from the stew pot! :-) allard

  3. I haven't solved it either ... it hasn't caught my interest much either.